The 40 Biggest Hip-Hop Moments in Pop Culture History

5. The Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill Drops

Date: November 15, 1986

The Moment: Just before Thanksgiving in 1986, Def Jam via Rick Rubin suddenly dropped something the world had never seen before: A rap album...by three white, Jewish kids who used to play in a punk band.

The Impact: The album was a nihlistic, party anthem-filled ode to mischief, hedonism, wiseassery, that spoke in its own language, both figureatively and literally. Rap albums hadn't been recorded with the kind of hard guitar riffs and concrete-cracking bass drops in the same hand that were on this Def Jam masterpiece; until then, Blondie's "Rapture" was the closest thing the world had seen to a white person rapping, let alone rapping in a way that would make most parents concerned about the moral fabric of America want to literally lock up their daughters.

The album received rave reviews and went platinum only four months after its release in February 1987. It turned the Beastie Boys into overnight stars, and some of the most terrifying young men to influence teenagers in the history of American pop music.

The Upshot: The Beastie Boys moved away from their image as America's Greatest Hellraisers as they progressed through their careers, eventually apologizing for some of the most outright misogynistic parts of the album (especially of note: "Paul Revere," which they stopped performing with the same lyrics). But the album—which brought rap into the mainstream in an unprecedented way—was just the beginning of one of the most legendary rap careers of all time. Licensed to Ill opened the doors for not only white rappers who wanted to be taken seriously, but also rappers who wanted to take a serious approach to artistic evolution over time.

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